Gators roll into 3rd round

PHOTO BY ROB GANTT Goose Creek’s bench celebrates late in the game after a basket by Tanaza Ford on Friday night.

Goose Creek’s impressive season continued to roll along on Friday night as the state’s third-ranked Class AAAA team easily dispatched of visiting Conway, 59-30.

Freshman forward Shayla Nelson scored 20 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead a balanced scoring attack for the 22-2 Gators. Junior all-state point guard Mariah Linney added 10 points, nine steals and seven assists and senior forward Shakayia Wilson scored 10 points. Goose Creek dominated the boards and tallied 17 steals as a team.

“From what we saw on film, we felt if we could get some pressure they would turn the ball over,” Goose Creek coach Tim Baldwin said. “They (Conway) start like three sophomores, so they’re a little inexperienced, but they are going to be OK down the road. When the kids you expect to score do score, you get a little separation, and that’s what we were able to do.”

After Goose Creek jumped out to a 9-2 lead, Conway rallied to tie the score with less than a minute to play in the first quarter. The Gators scored the final basket of the first period and then opened the second quarter with a 13-0 run to take a 24-9 lead with 3:30 left in the half.

Goose Creek led, 28-13, heading into the third and erased any doubt as the eventual outcome by scoring the first 17 points of the third — 10 by Nelson, who scored 14 points in the period. The Gators led, 51-17, heading into the fourth, and backups played most of the final quarter.

Aishera Williams had 12 points for Conway (15-8).

“We felt the rebounding could control the game,” Baldwin said. “We definitely felt we had an advantage inside and we tried to make sure we threw the ball inside a lot. Shayla got it going in the third quarter. She’s not bad for a freshman.”

Goose Creek advances to a third-round matchup on Monday with North Augusta, on the road. Both teams are ranked in the Class AAAA top 10 polls by the South Carolina Basketball Coaches Association with Goose Creek ranked third and North Augusta ranked sixth.

“They’re a good program from a strong region,” Baldwin said. “We’re playing good so hopefully we can keep it going.”